Hot cross buns court their fair share of controversy. A gradient of bull-headed opinion colours the public discourse from the moment the first batch of Easter buns hits the shelves, usually sometime between Christmas and the new year. According to some people (like your great-aunt Gladys and her bingo pals), eating sugary bread with a cross on it more than one weekend a year is tantamount to going back for seconds at communion. And the cardinal sin? Riffing on the recipe with cronut interpretations, flourishes of chocolate or the sacrilegious bacon hot cross butty.
But we’re not here to judge you. So, if you want to enjoy an Easter treat all year round without the scandal of being caught at the check-out by a disapproving relative, we’ve roadtested an easy hot cross bun recipe for you to try at home. And what’s more, it comes from Fred’s pastry chef Elodie Marion.
“Most hot cross bun recipes are quite similar. I’ve played with a lot of different ones and kind of put them together to make my own,” Elodie says. “It’s simple and straightforward, but the most important thing is to take your time and make sure the dough proves correctly.”
As it turns out, that’s pretty good advice. We rushed the first batch and ended up with (admittedly delicious) hockey pucks. According to Elodie, making sure the yeast activates properly is crucial. “Keep it in a warm area to prove – around body temperature,” she says. “And don’t skip the two proving stages. It should take around an hour and a half in total, but you’ll know it’s ready when it’s doubled in size.” If you’re using dry yeast, make sure you activate it beforehand with a little warm water and sugar.
Get that bit right, and you’re sure to have soft, billowy buns hot out of the oven. As for putting your own twist on it, Elodie is pretty flexible. “I don’t mind playing with the flavours here and there, but I think I prefer the original,” she says. “Every Easter I try to do something slightly different – but a cronut? I don’t think I’d be up for that.”
Ultimately, what you do with your hot cross buns is between you and them. Treat this as a traditional hot cross bun recipe but indulge as you see fit. Chuck some choc chips in there, turn them into an Easter bread and butter pudding or slice them open and stuff them with bacon and maple syrup… Just don’t let Aunt Gladys find out.
Hot Cross Buns
- 180g dry fruit mix
- 1 orange: zested
- 400g baker’s flour
- 60g butter (soft)
- 60g brown sugar
- 10g dried yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 200ml milk
- 1 egg
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp all-spice
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- Preheat oven to 180°C
- Place the dry fruit mix in a bowl, cover with boiling water. Leave to soak for 15 minutes.
- Strain the fruits and combine with orange zest
- Place all of the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl. Mix to combine.
- Slightly warm the milk, add the egg and mix. Make sure the milk isn’t too hot as you don’t want to cook the egg.
- Add milk and butter to the dry mix and using the dough hook attachment, slowly mix everything until combined.
- Once everything is combined, turn the mixer to medium speed, and work the dough for roughly 8 minutes. This will develop the protein in the flour. Once the dough is ready it will peel from the side of the bowl and begin to form a ball.
- Using a spatula, transfer the dough in an oiled bowl, cover and leave to prove for 1 hr or until doubled in size.
- On a well-floured bench, divide the dough into twelve 80g balls. Once all divided roll into balls.
- Place the balls into a lined tray about 1cm apart.
- Prove the dough for a further 20 minutes or until doubled in size.
- Whisk together all the ingredients to make the cross batter and using a piping bag, pipe crosses onto the buns.
Words by Dimitri Tricolas